Utah’s attorney general joins multistate effort to sue President Joe Biden over climate change order

The 12 state coalition of Republican A.G.s claims Biden overstepped his authority.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes joined a coalition of Republican attorneys general in suing the Biden administration over an executive order on climate change.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is joining a coalition of 11 other states to sue President Joe Biden over an executive order that seeks to establish the “social cost” of greenhouse gases. All of the states involved have Republican attorneys general.

The order directed a group of agencies to calculate the social cost of carbon emissions, which will assist the administration in determining the pros and cons of potential regulations of greenhouse gases. The Obama administration set that cost at $50 per metric ton, while the Trump administration dropped that to just $7 per metric ton. The Biden administration says it will temporarily return to the Obama administration’s standard.

The suit states, “In practice, President Biden’s order directs federal agencies to use this enormous figure to justify an equally enormous expansion of federal regulatory power that will intrude into every aspect of Americans’ lives — from their cars to their refrigerators and homes, to their grocery and electric bills. If the Executive Order stands, it will inflict hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars of damage to the U.S. economy for decades to come. It will destroy jobs, stifle energy production, strangle America’s energy independence, suppress agriculture, deter innovation, and impoverish working families.”

The lawsuit, led by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, argues Biden violated the constitutional separation of powers because only Congress has the power to regulate, not the president.

“Estimating the ‘social cost’ of greenhouse gases is a speculative legislative policy decision that should be left to Congress. President Biden’s executive order creating a working group to estimate global social costs — and using those estimates to justify regulatory action — violates the Constitution because Congress did not delegate this authority to the working group,” Reyes said in an email statement provided to The Tribune.

“The State of Utah wants reasonable clean air and environmental policies that protect Utahns and the air we breathe, not executive orders that bypass Congress and subject businesses and whole industries to onerous restrictions arbitrarily based on subjectivity and not science,” the statement continued.

Reyes argued if implemented, Biden’s executive order would have an adverse impact on Utah’e economy.

“Under this order, nearly any activity imaginable could be regulated, restricted or even shut down based on very amorphous and undefinable standards. It’s a recipe for economic disaster without the benefit of any sustainable and responsible policy,” he said.

Reyes’ activities have come under scrutiny and drawn criticism following the 2020 election. In November he traveled to Nevada to assist former President Donald Trump’s campaign’s investigation into allegations of voter fraud in that state. None were found.

Reyes also signed on to a multistate lawsuit led by Texas to invalidate election results in four states carried by Biden during the election.

That suit, which was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, brought sharp criticism from Utah’s Republican Gov. Gary Herbert and then-Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who is now governor. They questioned his motives and said it was “an unwise use of taxpayers’ money.”

Two Democratic lawmakers sought remedies to rein in the attorney general during the just-completed legislative session. House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, proposed a requirement for the attorney general to seek permission from the governor before taking legal action on behalf of the state along with a constitutional amendment to limit the ability to join legal actions. Both of those efforts died without a debate.

Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, proposed impeaching Reyes for his post-election efforts on behalf of Trump as well as his association with the Republican Attorneys General Association, which was accused of helping to organize the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., that ended in the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Reyes denied any involvement with the rally. Stoddard’s efforts also were unsuccessful.